Twelve Falk faculty awarded CUSE research grants

The Syracuse University Office of Research’s internal grant program to provide seed funding for faculty research and scholarly projects, named the Collaboration for Unprecedented Success and Excellence (CUSE) Grant Program, includes awards made to 12 Falk College faculty members.

CUSE Grants support faculty research in all disciplines, including basic, translational and applied sciences; social sciences; physical and life sciences; engineering; liberal arts and humanities; and professional studies, as well as creative research and other scholarly activities.

“The CUSE grant program is one of the strategic steps of achieving Chancellor Syverud’s vision of enhancing the student experience and increasing research and innovation,” says Vice President for Research John Liu. “As such, the CUSE grant program will not only help advance knowledge of the awardees’ fields and enhance the University’s research profile and impact, but it also will create more research opportunities for our students.”

The CUSE grant program was designed to be highly interdisciplinary, to spur growth in the research enterprise and to further support the University’s standing as a pre-eminent and inclusive student-focused research university.

Award recipients, funded amounts, and research projects include:

About the Projects

Dried attractive bait stations (DABS) for the Control of Aedes Aegypti

David Larsen (PFN) PI
CUSE Grant – Innovation, $30,000

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is responsible for dengue, zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever, which affect more than 100 million people each year and cause economic damages of more than $50 million per annum. There are limited interventions available to control adult Ae. aegypti– prevention is typically managed through larviciding. Larviciding however is often ineffective because Ae. aegypti utilize hidden breeding sites that are missed during larviciding campaigns. This project will conduct experimental hut trials of dried attractive bait station (DABS) device to control Ae. aegypti. DABS utilizes visual cues to attract Ae. aegypti and then elicits an ingestion response wherein the mosquito ingests a stomach poison and dies. During laboratory studies the device killed 100 percent of female Ae. aegypti both before and after they had taken the blood meal, and up to at least 3 months following the manufacture of the device. The device can be manufactured for less than $5.00 and is simply hung on an interior wall of the household. Laboratory-raised Ae. aegypti mosquitos will be released into experimental huts with and without DABS, and escape, knockdown, and mortality will be measured in an ABBA design. These runs will be replicated with the presence of alternative feeding sources. The study will be conducted in Machala, Ecuador at an established dengue surveillance site with ongoing funding from the Department of Defense, the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Further Evidence for the Negative Consequences of Mosquito Net Fishing

Rick Welsh (PFN) PI and David Larsen (PFN) co-PI
CUSE Grant – Interdisciplinary innovation, $30,000

Hundreds of millions of insecticide-treated mosquito nets have been distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa for the control of malaria. While successful in controlling malaria, these nets also make excellent fishing nets. Our previous research suggests that the practice of mosquito net fishing is ubiquitous and devastating to the fisheries of the floodplain of the upper Zambezi in Western Province, Zambia. We hypothesize that the current paradigm of mass distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets threatens economic and food security as well as malaria control. Herein we propose furthering this research with three aims. First, we will attempt to quantify the use of mosquito nets in illegal fishing through secondary data analysis of Liuwa National Park poaching patrols. Second, we will explore fish landings data that may or may not exist in Zambia. And third, we will conduct experiments to determine how pyrethroids may leach from ITNs into water as well as how these pyrethroids affect larvivorous fish and the productivity of breeding sites in producing malaria vectors.

Cause of Death, Longevity, and Career Statistical Characteristics among Former NFL Players: An Empirical Analysis using Categorical and Survival Models

Shane Sanders (SPM) PI, Merril Silverstein (HDFS) co-PI, Brittany Kmush (PFN) co-PI, and Arthur Owora (PFN) co-PI
CUSE Grant – Interdisciplinary innovation, $29,921.

The present research seeks to determine the relationships between on-field attributes/events, longevity, and cause of death among former NFL players. As the present NFL player concussion reporting protocol was not enacted until 2011, present data cannot determine the mortality risk factor presented by the elevated rate of concussion experienced by players during their career. That is, the complete pathway from concussion(s) to chronic traumatic encephalopathy and other neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s Disease) to mortality risk among former NFL players is empirically indeterminable given present data. Such an empirical determination is important toward mitigating the on-field circumstances that create (mortality risk from) neurodegenerative disease. We employ a second best empirical approach in which proxies of neurocognitive trauma are developed for each former NFL player from 1923 using on-field player event and attribute data. Depending upon player position-of-play, these proxies include games played, games started, seasons played, number of tackles, number of times sacked, number of carries, number of receptions, years of play, playing style, and position itself. We also collect birth date, death date, and player (listed) height and weight during career. From these player trauma proxies, we will examine the relationship between estimated neurocognitive trauma, presence of neurodegenerative disease, and longevity in former NFL players. The analysis will determine whether elevated neurodegenerative risk factors exist among former NFL players with respect to position-of-play, era, physical characteristics, or distribution of on-field events. Such findings are important toward the development of mitigating (sport governance) policy.

Mechanisms of Change Associated with Mindfulness Training for People with Posttraumatic Stress: Triangulating Neural Networks, Biomarkers, Cognition and Behaviors

Dessa Bergen-Cico (PFN) PI, Rachel Razza (HDFS) co-I, Mark Costa (Newhouse) co-I, Leanne Hirschfield (Newhouse) co-I, and Qiu Wang (SOE) co-I
CUSE Grant – Interdisciplinary innovation, $29,629

Clinical research has explored the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions for a range of physical and mental health outcomes including posttraumatic stress (PTS); however, little is known about the neural and cognitive mechanisms of change resulting from mindfulness-based practices. Objective measures of changes in cognitive and neural networks associated with mindfulness-based practices would be valuable tools for researchers to expand understanding of the specific mechanisms of neural change associated with mindfulness practices, and to provide objective measures of PTS. Using state-of-the-art technology, we will use machine-learning algorithms to analyze neural network and brain wave data in order to develop predictive models which distinguish brain states for traumatic stress symptoms and its’ associated impact on attention, working memory, and emotional regulation. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), electroencephalographic (EEG) data, and physiological measures (e.g. HR, GSR) we will measure neural, cognitive and attention measures for 30 participants at risk for traumatic stress (Veterans, first responders, and people impacted by community violence) and conduct longitudinal analysis of potential changes following a mindfulness-based intervention. Participants will be randomized into the mindfulness-based intervention cohort (n=15) or the wait list control cohort (n=15). We will assess changes in neural and biometric measures within each cohort and compare between-cohort differences (intervention vs control). Through the use of bioinformatics this research aims to 1.) measure neural and physiological responses to cognitive tasks to determine which measures are correlated to posttraumatic stress 2.) identify potential mechanisms of change in neural networks and biomarkers associated with mindfulness practice, and 3.) develop testbed environments using VR/xR ecological environments to support highly controlled mindfulness experiments.

Risk and Protective Factors as Determinants of Sexual Health Behaviors of Caribbean Youth: An Ecological Approach

Lutchmie Narine (PFN) PI, Ambika Krishnakumar (HDFS) co-PI, and Jaipaul Roopnarine (HDFS) co-PI
CUSE Grant – Interdisciplinary innovation, $30,000.

Young adults in the Caribbean who represent over one-fourth of the area’s total population are particularly vulnerable to challenging and disadvantageous macro-environmental factors and experience a multitude of complex health-related problems. There is a worrying and growing trend in the rates of negative health behaviors among Caribbean youth including aggression (e.g., fighting, hitting), homicide, crime and violence (e.g., robbery, felony, drug dealing), substance abuse (alcohol and drug dependency), and engagement in negative sexual behaviors (unsafe sexual practices, early initiation into sexual activity). Much of the research conducted in the Caribbean on negative health behaviors has focused on adolescents. Our proposed research will focus on the study of health behaviors of 2000 young adults between 18 and 25 years in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname. In the first year, we will conduct a quantitative online survey in which we will examine the risk and protective factors (ecological and cultural) that predict and buffer young adult negative health behaviors. In the second year, we will conduct focus group discussions to understand the contextual factors as well as the cultural norms and myths that hamper parental and community level communications about health behaviors. Data from the survey and the focus group discussions will help us formulate ideas on how to develop health programs to help Caribbean young adults deal with health challenges. As well, the study findings will provide the basis for seeking funding support for more extensive explorations of young adult health in the Caribbean.

Evaluating the Role of Sustainable Farming Practices in Promoting Food Security While Protecting Endangered Species in the Galapagos Archipelago

Margaret Voss (PFN) PI and Rick Welsh (PFN) co-PI
CUSE Grant – Seed, $5,000.

The Galapagos ecosystem is a strong draw for international ecotourism. Human activity, however, often leads to profound changes in the relationships and structures of biophysical systems that are detrimental to both human and non-human species. The confluence of changing land use patterns and the introduction of a devastating avian parasite into the Galapagos Islands has set the stage for the decline of several species of Darwin’s finch, a centerpiece of Galapagos tourism. These declines will ultimately have a negative effect on ecotourism and the existing island social system. We believe one of the overlooked links in decreasing bird species decline is understanding how agricultural regions might be used to eliminate areas of refuge for the parasite. Changing land use likely concentrates and alters the breeding behavior of Darwin’s finch species to favor the invading parasite. A priority for the Landbird Conservation Plan of the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park Directorate is determining the effectiveness of corridors of native forests to protect birds. We are exploring collaborative arrangements with Galapagos farmers to build and maintain buffer regions between agricultural areas and remnant native forest. We are working to identify the support farmers require to maintain buffer zones near their farms while maximizing crop yields. Our ultimate goal is to design a guide of farming methods and land preservation plans to help optimize biodiversity and maximize sustainable crop yield within the agricultural and socioeconomic systems currently in place.

China’s Aging Population: Implications for Families and Public Policy

Merril Silverstein (HDFS) PI
CUSE Grant – Seminar, $10,000.

This proposal requests support to convene a workshop devoted to the topic of demographic change in China and its implications for family care and support for older adults. The goal of this workshop is to bring together prominent scholars working at the intersection of China studies, family science, gerontology, public policy, and demography to present research papers about the consequences of social and demographic change in China for meeting the needs of older individuals and their families, as well as the policy responses to those changes.

An important goal of the workshop is to create the intellectual space within which participants will engage in synergistic conversations around the topic of aging families in China to enhance future research collaborations. The workshop will provide SU graduate students and faculty exposure to leading scholars in this area. Finally, the papers presented at the workshop will be submitted for publication in an edited volume by Routledge Press.

This workshop brings together the most significant researchers from China and the U.S. to address one of the major challenges facing China today, as population aging and fertility decline go hand-in-hand to create intergenerational pressures that require a societal response.